No. 3 Ohio State will be without star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba against Rutgers on Saturday.
Smith-Njigba has been dealing with a lingering hamstring issue, and the Buckeyes’ staff has been treating the injury with an abundance of caution to make sure he’s healthy for the finishing stretch of the schedule.
There’s no set timetable on Smith-Njigba’s return. He’ll be evaluated again going into next week’s game at Michigan State. The Buckeyes (4-0) have a bye after the game with the Spartans, and there’s optimism that Smith-Njigba’s hamstring should be completely healed by the time Ohio State faces Iowa on Oct. 22 and travels to Penn State on Oct. 29.
Smith-Njigba is considered one of the best wide receivers in college football and among the top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft, as he caught 95 balls last season for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch and 123.5 yards per game.
But after injuring a hamstring early in Ohio State’s opener against Notre Dame, Smith-Njigba has caught just four balls for 36 yards in two games this season. He was limited against Notre Dame and during his return Sept. 17 in Ohio State’s blowout of Toledo.
Smith-Njigba is considered the No. 11 overall player in the country according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, and No. 12 in Mel Kiper’s draft projections. Both analysts have him as the No. 2 wide receiver behind USC’s Jordan Addison.
In Smith-Njigba’s absence, two young Buckeye stars have emerged as sophomores Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. have both become key receivers for the Buckeyes.
Egbuka has a team-high 442 yards on 26 catches in four games and Harrison has 387 on 21 catches. Each has caught five touchdown passes. Tight end Cade Stover has also carved a bigger niche in the Buckeye offense, catching 12 balls for 188 yards and two touchdowns.